Viewers' Guide: Closer look at NBA TV's Friday night showdown
Clippers vs. Thunder (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
Clippers Cutting Down Opposition
While everyone focused on the Warriors getting richer over the summer thanks to the addition of Kevin Durant, the Clippers have quietly started this season with the best record in the Western Conference at 7-1. Not only are the Clippers winning games, they’re doing it in convincing fashion, winning by an average of 16.9 points, almost eight more than the next closest team (Atlanta at 9.4). And with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin anchoring the interior, and Chris Paul leading the NBA in steals (3.0) on the perimeter, the Clippers currently boast the league’s best defensive rating (89.3).
The Westbrook Show
With Durant decamped, Russell Westbrook has stepped fully into the spotlight in Oklahoma City, and what a show he has put on thus far. Simply put, everything for the Thunder on the offensive side either starts or ends with Westbrook, and more than often both are true. Through eight games, Westbrook has messed around and nearly averaged a triple-double, posting a career-high 31 points, 9.5 assists and 8.3 rebounds. His impact on games is so profound for the Thunder that Westbrook is averaging a league-high 41.8 percent usage rate thus far.
While the Clippers and Thunder each have a clear leadership structure, they also each look to their benches for help. After years of a dropoff from the starters to their second unit, the Clippers have put together a second unit that, at least thus far, is paying huge dividends. Using essentially a three-guard lineup of Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, alongside Wesley Johnson and Marrese Speights, the Clippers have a crew that can play pace and space alongside anyone. In 82 minutes together this season, this five has attempted 62 3-pointers, while outscoring their opponents by a total of 35 points.